The Fresh Loaf

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Question: How to get maximum banana flavour into a (non-quick-bread) banana bread?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Question: How to get maximum banana flavour into a (non-quick-bread) banana bread?

I'm going to make a sourdough banana (maybe banana nut) bread that's not a quick-bread.

  • Some of the banana will be dried/dehydrated banana, which has an intense banana flavour (added to final dough(and maybe the preferment))
  • Some of the banana will be very ripe, pureed banana (added to final dough (and maybe preferment))

Re:preferment.

I've added banana (and other fruits and sugar-laden ingredients) to preferments before, but it always seems like 'a waste': the bacteria/yeast eat the available sugars in the fruit, etc. and the flavour 'disappears'.

Is there any way to use banana in a preferment that doesn't result in lost banana flavour? Use less ripe bananas? Do you have other procedures that have resulted in intense banana flavour in a final loaf. (I'm really trying to avoid repeated failures re: just a hint of banana!).

A search returns 38,000+ results (Banana Pain au Levain looks neat!), so if you've had a recipe or a procedure that's worked particularly well for you, please point me to it. I open to all forms of incorporating banana flavour into the bread. I want a bread that has an intense banana flavour.

Thanks,

Thomas

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

the greener the banana, the weaker the flavour.   My friends jokingly pass around my "dead banana bread recipe" and getting a good laugh, point being the fruit should be dead ripe for strong flavour.  "Too dead" will start to take on an alcohol taste as they start to ferment inside their skins.  You choose which you like better.  A little nutmeg also a good addition.

I think dried or dehydrated banana pieces or chips are processed before the bananas are "dead ripe."

More in the archives...  

Frazestart's picture
Frazestart

I would adapt this approach to your slow-leavened bread:

http://food4wibowo.blogspot.com/2011/01/americas-test-kitchen-ultimate-banana.html

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I already have one of those that I can't better (Don't we all! My banana bread is best! No! Mine is! No, Mine!)

I've tried adapting it to a sourdough loaf with less than stellar results.

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/26306/no-flavor-my-banana-bred#comment-196067

It's uses MiniOven's advice re: very, very, very, very, very, very ripe bananas.

Note to self. Convert to Baker's Percentage (so you can make cupcake-sized one instead of a Gugelhupf-sized).

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

That's what my grandfather taught me. If the banana is not uber-ripe (to the point of molding), it's not ready to eat.

Alas, put uber-ripe bananas in a preferment and there's no banana flavour at all after 12 hours. :(

-

Re: dehydrated ones.

I dehydrate them myself, but only after they're brown with spots. I can only let them get so ripe before putting them in the dehydrator, though. They're mush after a certain point.

-

Sadly, even when very, very ripe, I can't get intense banana-flavour out of a sourdough bread. I can out of a quick-bread. That's easy enough.

-

Have you ever had a green banana just off the tree? Horrific! Sooooo bitter, your mouth turns inside out.

GregS's picture
GregS

Cooks Illustrated for July 2010 had banana bread scheme where they microwaved bananas (covered, vented) until they released their juices. The bananas were then placed in a strainer to "drain" until juice was accumulated, then the juice was boiled down until thickened.

I haven't tried this, but it may give you something better than buying an artifical banana flavoring.

Hope this helps. Perhaps small recompense for your recent work on the Excel charts and olive bread.

GregS

 

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

If that works as well as it does with their apple pie recipe, it might just be a winner.

Correction: the apple pie version of juice reduction =Rose Levy Beranbaum's from The Pie & Pastry Bible.

Frazestart's picture
Frazestart

That was the same recipe I referred to earlier and you responded "That's just a quick bread."  Aside from precooking/concentrating some of the bananas, it uses a larger than average amount of bananas (5 per 1.75 cups flour) than most recipes.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

And that's what I get for just glancing.

My apologies.

(Then again, some of Christopher Kimble's recommendations make me want to wrap him in banana leaves and cook him as if he's a Hawaiian luau pig.)

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Instead, why not use the pre-ferment as you normally would, sans bananas.  Then add the bananas in the final dough, perhaps as part of the autolyze.  You could even "cheat" a bit and add some commercial yeast to speed the bulk and final ferments, relying on the pre-ferment to contribute those lovely long-ferment flavors.  That ought to get you closer to maximizing the banana flavor in the finished bread.

Paul

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

That's what Shiao-Ping's Banana Pain au Levain does: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/14432/banana-pain-au-levain

I guess I'm just trying to introduce banana at every stage to get maximal banana flavour; but, you're right, if the yeasties et al reduce it to nothing, no point in using it in the preferment.

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

keeping the yeasties away from the bananies.  Bananas in a blanket?  Wrap little pieces of banana and pile them together to make a monkey bread.  How about first dipping the bananie bites in chocolate and then wrapping them?  Or mash the bananas with a little rum and cake crumbs coating with cocolate and dropping into the dough (how wet is your dough?) or rolling up inside.  Roasted nuts?

Grease and  flour that bundt pan with banana flakes, baby!  It's going to be a tropical bananie monkey bread will balls!  :)

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I can hear it now in a friend's heavy Scottish brogue:

THERRRRRE IS POINT WHERRRRE IS BECOMES A BANANA AND NOT A BRRRREAD!

aytab's picture
aytab

Mini I love you, you always come up with the best ideas and not just one of them but a shower of them, Bananas in a blanket!!! That will surely get the intense banana flavour!!!! Then you really start talking my language when you start bringing chocolate and rum into the conversation.

Symmetry's picture
Symmetry

Banana monkey bread...it makes me wonder how the 'original' ever got its name!

Those are all great ideas. I'm going to have to give some of them a try.

Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete

Hi Thomas,

Don't use in your preferment............just wait till the bannana is over ripe ie black and soft and can be mushed quite easily. This is when the flavour of the bananna is at its most intense. Just place it in when you start your kneading.

All my wifes babanna recipes call for very ripe softened bananas. But not to a point where they are attracting flies and mold.

Cheers.................Pete

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

If you put anything with sugar in a preferment, the yeast/bacteria (we should come up with a new compound word, maybe yeabacs or bacteasts or yeabacteasts) will eat those sugars for lunch, leaving behind the usual byproducts.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sounds like a band of loafers!

Hey!  if bananas ferment... what about a banana yeast culture?  Stuff them with bananas until they make extract!  Or do you think it will be too mild like many fruit yeast cultures?  

I think sliced banana inside the peanut butter sandwich works pretty good too!

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

The yeasbacteasts reduce them to flavourless, mildly alcoholic (mild being subjective) mush.

-

I realized yesterday that dried Calimyrna figs taste more banana-y than ripe bananas, so maybe I'll cheat and add some of them.

 

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

I'm one of those who has developed a SD bananabread recipe I rate as the best I've tasted, but as you say, Thomas, so many folk make those sorts of claims. We're all right, since it's virtually impossible to move beyond a subjective appraisal! So, I'll spare you my recipe (and evangelising), unless you really want it - in which case I'll put it up in a separate post.

On bananas, my findings are the same as Mini's and the other posters who recommend using very ripe bananas - to the point of black skins is fine. This is when the sugars and banana flavour we're after in bananabread have developed to their maximum. You can let them go too far, though - you don't want them fermenting inside their blackened skins!

But I'd add that the variety of banana is also important. There are so many varieties, many of which are only available in tropical regions, but generally speaking I've found the small ones tend to be sweeter and more intense in flavour. There are some miniature bananas we had in Thailand that are the best of the best according to the locals, and from our sampling I'd have to agree. Have had almost unbelievably sweet, lovely bananas in Vietnam, also. Beauties like these are not so easy to come by outside SE Asia, although I have occasionally seen the little ones in my neck o the woods. Anyway, if possible, I'd recommend you go for small over large.

Also, when I was trying out different recipes on the way to developing my own, I found that increasing the banana content beyond that recommended usually resulted in not only a more intensely flavoured bananabread, but added nicely to the overall moistness. A lot of recipes tended to produce bananabreads on the dry side.

Finally, I think we need to differentiate between banana bread of the type Shiao-Ping posted about, which is bona fide SD bread with a banana flavour, and bananabread of the type I - and I suspect most others - are referring to, which is closer to cake than bread. (NB: I'm not sure whether my one-word 'bananabread' terminology of differentiation is just a personal idiosyncacy or something I picked up elsewhere). Although my version does use a large proportion of SD starter, the leavening agents are baking powder and soda, so the starter is really in there mostly for flavour. I do think it adds a lovely note to the flavour profile, though.

Good luck in your quest!

Cheers!
Ross

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I'm reminded of a recent shopping trip to Uwajimaya, a huge Asian market in downtown Seattle.

I love everything "sweet potato", so I put a couple of American sweet potatoes in my basket.

A little, old Japanese lady looked at me as if I'd lost my mind.

She stares through these really thick eyeglasses and squeaks (and I'm not going to censor it, sorry!), "You eat those? No one eat those! American sweet potatoes are shit!" She takes the American ones out of my basket and replaces them with these little, tiny Asian versions.

Too funny, but she was right: American sweet potatoes are what she says they are, at least when compared to their miniature Asian counsins.

I've found the same result in a lot of other produce, especially beets, eggplants, and pineapples.

-

I'd never thought to check bananas, but will do so now.

I was aware of the ripeness issue (very ^ 10 ripe), but thanks for the other info. and the pointer to try other bananas.

-

Have you tried dried/dehydrated ones? (Not banana chips, which are usually fried, but sometimes dried.) They're even more intense than the ripest fresh ones. Note, however, that most of the industrially dried ones at done so at too high a temperature. They taste more like caramel than banana. Dry them at home for yourself @ 130 F for 24+ hours for real treat.

Thomas

Oh, and there's always room for another banana bread recipe. Do post it.

G-man's picture
G-man

Asian sweet potatoes at Uwajimaya? I'll have to hop over there after work today to see if they've got some and to give them a try. If it goes well maybe some sweet potato bread is in my future. Thanks for that tip.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I'm thinking of going back to Seattle late summer for another contract gig with the Borg collective on the eastside. If I do, I think I'll get a place near Uwajimaya. Love that store (and all the Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurants around there).

The sweet potatoes are usually labeled "Asian yams". This is what they look like (yellow checkmark). Note the size compared to the American garnet yam (the big one in the upper left). The "ugly" yams above and below the Asian yam are good too, but really hard to peel. I usually just roast them and eat them skin and all.

What are those little bean paste stuffed thingies called? Mochi! I could live on those.

proth5's picture
proth5

from Okinawa, I think I miss the purple yams the most.

Some say "Anywhere you go, there you are."  I say "Anywhere you are there is someplace to miss."

Sigh.

rossnroller's picture
rossnroller

Enjoyed the tale of the old Japanese lady. Most Japanese people I have met are so polite - it's especially funny that that old bird deviated from the stereotype like that.

Will post my bananabread recipe over the weekend.

Cheers, Thomas (and hopefully I'll have made it through this shorter post without the typos that I never notice until it's too late).
Ross

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

That sort of behavior is almost unthinkable for a older Japanese woman.You're probably right. She maybe have been Chinese. Those old Chinese women will out drink and out smoke you while they take all of your money across the poker table. And they'll tell you exactly what they think of American sweet potatoes.

-=-

I have the same problem with typos. I have to edit each post a dozen times before I squash all of them.

I finally noticed the spellcheck button last week.

(No idea why browser-based spellcheck doesn't work on TFL. It works everywhere else.)

G-man's picture
G-man

I'm pretty sure most here know this one, but if you throw not-quite-there-yet bananas in the freezer for a day and then pull them out and let them defrost, they'll have reached that "pudding" stage where they're perfect for baking.

This is generally what happens to bananas in my house. 

In regards to the OP, you might try soaking the bananas in watered-down vodka with some sugar added for good measure. The resulting liqueur, used sparingly, will be full of banana flavor and if you don't add too much and add it late in the game, it shouldn't impact your rise too much. I'm thinking along the lines of soaking fruit for panettone in limoncello then tossing fruit and liquid into the dough. Same general idea.

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

I rather think it just oxidies the fruit (turns it brown), but doesn't ripen it.

(Someone is going to tell me that oxidation is ripening. I await the correction).

G-man's picture
G-man

You're right. Freezing just browns them and makes them mushy. The browning has something to do with polyphenols in the skin, I guess? The more you think you know...

I guess the best way to ripen them is to put them in a paper or plastic bag in a warm place.

Who knew?

 

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

That from the fruit (and I agree there is a large variety -- I actually like the small fat light orange colored ones that taste like a pinacolada)  or that exquisite flavour from the leaves?  Two rather different flavours but I think I can put the milder banana blossoms in the same taste category as leaves although used differently one eaten like a vegetable, the other a utilitarian wrapping.  

Now if you're looking for a different taste than typical (what do we do with these overripe bananas?) banana bread, why not line your baking pan with washed and wilted banana leaves?  (not tried banana peels) (careful when cutting your own leaves, the sap stains permanently and shows up days later)   A leaf cover would steam impart flavour and gosh, I just had a vision of slow baked Borodinsky Banana Rye.   

thomaschacon's picture
thomaschacon (not verified)

It was like a dense banana bread, warm, and baked in banana leaves.

I guess the leaves were responsible for the exotic flavour: sweet-bitter-smokyishful?